Friday, September 15, 2017

It is well with my soul...

It is well... with my soul.  One of my favorite childhood hymns has only become more precious over these past few months. The story behind Horatio Spafford penning these words has always moved me to tears.  The loss of his first son, financial ruin through the Great Chicago fire, and then reading the words, "Saved alone..." from his wife after their four daughters died while crossing the Atlantic Ocean would be more than enough devastate any man.  Yet while crossing over the area where his daughters may have died, he wrote these words, "When peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul."

Even though I can relate so little to the loss this man went through, his words have brought me comfort as I have grieved and dealt with my own battles over the last several months.  I would have said it all began on the day we literally moved from our house in NC, but I can look back now and see it started weeks before. Moving has always been one of the most stressful experiences in my life. It was only two years ago that we moved houses.  Then to realize we were moving again, but this time far from everything we'd grown to love, all our friends and family, the area our girls were born in, and all they had ever known.  It was hard.  In an effort to savor every moment we could with friends and special places, we went nonstop, sometimes meeting up with 2-3 families a day, all while trying to pack and move states.

I was exhausted by the time we drove those two vehicles away from our quiet neighborhood in Willow Spring.  On only a few hours of sleep, at least 3 cups of coffee, I followed Marty in our van towards my parents house where we planned to stay for the night before continuing to SC. However, after about an hour into the drive, I began struggling to catch my breath.  I sipped my water, ate snacks to help me stay awake, prayed, but I couldn't shake whatever it was.  I called Marty, asked him to pray, and to keep an eye on me in case I had to pull over.  I became fearful that I would faint as I had a childhood history of fainting.  The farther I drove the more anxious I became.  As we pulled up to a stoplight, I knew I was about to pass out, so I quickly pulled in the turn lane and prayed the light would turn green. I was able to pull off and Marty quickly turned around. Broken out in a cold sweat, I couldn't drive any farther.  We called my parents and they came and drove my van on to their house. Thinking it was just too much coffee, too little sleep, and too much stress, I dismissed it until the following morning when I became terrified to drive.  My chest would hurt, my breathing became labored, and my fears literally debilitated me. 

We left half of our belongings at my parents and drove on to SC. After a restful weekend at an Air B&B in Charleston and our first Sunday at our new church, I assumed I would be back to normal. The following Tuesday, we were moved in to our new home (thanks to some amazing new friends), so I thought the girls and I could drive over to Target and pick up a few things we needed.  Marty drove us to church so he could get some work done and we would come back and pick him up when we were finished.  But as I drove, I had one panic attack after another.  I could not leave the island and had to stop three times before making it back to the church.  I was devastated!  I felt embarrassed, ashamed in front of my girls, and honestly fearful for the future.  The anxiety over the next week or two only escalated and depression set in.  My mom was able to come spend the week with us, so I would have someone to drive the younger two girls and I around since Marty and Chloe had to go to camp.  More friends (old and new) came over the next few weeks and brought such comfort.  I tried everything naturally that I could think of.  Finally, I went to the doctor where she confirmed that I most likely did have a panic attack on the day of our move, and she was able to prescribe something to help for the time being.  I still struggled though.  

This is just small excerpt from my journal:  "Every morning as depression hits hard, even last night in the midst of another panic attack, I pray.  Marty prays.  I struggle to catch my breath and my heart beats rapidly.  Stress hits everyone in different ways.  It's debilitated me from driving, now even riding in a car.  I fear the medicine isn't working." In the midst of my struggles, my girls were hurting too.  They missed their friends so much, even though they were trying so hard to make the most of it.  

Praise God, I am getting better and driving more and more each day!  I am still taking my prescription, a bunch of supplements and vitamins, and lots of essential oils, but every time the anxiety rises, I've been able to get through it. I've had some incredible ladies who I've been completely honest with and have prayed with me through this time.  My girls have been so patient with me, encouraging me with each drive.  My parents provided a haven of rest when I was at an all time low.  My amazing husband... I can't say enough.  His patience, his selfless love, his kindness when he could have complained.  While moving can often bring the most tension to a marriage, this move has only brought us closer together.  Once again, I praise God!  Truly, to Him be the glory from all of this.  When you're at the bottom, you can only look up. He has taught me so much through His Word, through crying out in prayer when I was hopeless, and through the encouragement of others.  Already, He has given me opportunities to pray over the lives of others who deal with similar issues.  

So, I say all this not to ask for a pity party, but to ask for prayer. People see the pictures of where we live and marvel over its beauty. How blessed we are!  Yet behind every picture, it may not be as it seems.  Behind every picture is a mama fighting, fighting to feel better, fighting to be normal again, and fighting to settle where God has placed us.

Through this experience, there were times that I felt alone in this battle, thinking that I was the only one who experienced such anxiety.  Yet I continue to hear of others, both men and women, who have experienced the exact feelings and struggles I did.  If you ever struggle with this kind of anxiety, know that you're not alone. Reach out to someone, be honest with your loved ones, even if they don't understand, and seek healing.

"Forget the former things:  do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland."  Isaiah 43:18-19

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Deeper the Roots...

Almost two years ago, we drove this road, never imagining that it would ever become a daily drive for our family.  After close to twelve years at Fairview Baptist, our family is taking a new path, a path that we firmly believe God has directed us to follow.

Back in 2005, we packed all our belongings and traveled to the quaint town of Wake Forest, so that Marty could pursue seminary. We had already been in youth ministry for 4 years, but he desired to learn more and become better equipped for ministry in our future. Notice the word, "future."  We were tired at that point and honestly did not want a ministry job. With a one-year old in tow, no jobs, a contract on a townhome, and his acceptance letter in hand, we arrived in the Raleigh area.  But we soon discovered jobs were scarce, and we really wanted to be together as much as possible as a family.  Through what we only saw as God's providence, our seminary tour guide recommended Marty for his interim position at a church in Apex, NC.  I'll never forget driving down Ten-Ten Road our first Sunday there and feeling overwhelmed at why they would choose us.  

Over the years, Marty's job has changed, slowly increasing in responsibility, from youth to also children's ministry and then to family ministry.  Our family grew from arriving with one little girl to having our three precious young ladies.  We saw members come and go; our students grow not only physically, but spiritually; and our love for this church grow unlike anything we had ever experienced.  

But God has called us to move; this time away from everything we've known and loved.  From the first open door in this process we have slowly walked through, praying through each doorway. When we thought something would close the door, it didn't; instead swinging the door wider. God has used random messages from people over the past several months to confirm this decision.  Daily devotions have reassured us to trust God.  

Isaiah 43:19, "See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

Isaiah 58:11, "The Lord will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

1 Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you."

Even the weekend that we went to visit the church in SC, we prayed for red flags.  I prayed that I would notice every single little thing that could be an issue in whether or not we should go.  Not a single red flag.  The encouragement and connection that God allowed through that weekend confirmed in both of us that He was leading us.  We knew the only thing holding us back from going was the fact that it would be the hardest move of our lives. 

There is no way to explain how hard this process has been. Telling our girls went so much better than we expected. There have certainly been hard days and many, many tears were shed, especially that first week.  But their attitudes have been amazing thus far!  People have commented that "at least we homeschool!?" indicating that it should make things easier.  As much as this could be true, it's not.  There has been just as much mourning over leaving our Thursday homeschool group, our home that is our refuge, and most of all, our church which is all my girls have ever known.  Ministry is our life.  The people in it are our family.  

As much as we are thankful to leave on good terms with no other reason for leaving than the simple fact that God has called, it hurts. Many tears have been shed.  Feelings of guilt over leaving, thoughts of missing out on the amazing things God is doing at Fairview, and the fear of the unknown has gripped all of our hearts. 

But through this whole process, God has constantly reminded us of His promises to never leave us or forsake us. I could not imagine walking through this journey with anyone besides my love and best friend.  He has been so patient with me and has never once pressured me.  Despite moving all my life, this has been the hardest move yet.  We've never known roots could go so deep and the deeper the roots the harder they are to pull out.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

For the Dads... especially our guy!

In the homeschool circle, it's easy to focus on the kids or the mom who seems to run the show, but we sometimes forget to notice the guy behind the scenes: the dad.  We forget how hard he has to work in order for us to enjoy this privilege of teaching our children at home.  Instead of noticing all the things he's not doing, let's praise and focus on all the ways he's an amazing dad and husband!

So, on this Valentines day, we (our girls and I) say Thank you!  

- for giving in silent, sometimes unnoticed ways so we can pursue the path God has called our family to take.

- for supporting me as their teacher without question, yet holding me accountable when I doubt.

- for desiring most of all to train our girls in God's word.  

- for cultivating a love of the world, both geographically and spiritually.

21 Valentine's later... our love is sweeter, our commitment to each other more strong, and our selfies crazier than ever. May we continue to love adventuring, learning, and growing alongside each other more and more everyday!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hope for the Homeschool Mom

More days than not, I look back on the day and only see my failures, I see the layer of dust, the clothes that should have been washed, the promised tea party or science experiment unfulfilled and the burden lays heavy.

Facebook can add to the guilt; Instagram inspires, but often makes me long for more, more of what?  Both distract me more than I want to admit.  Fil Anderson says we are surrounded by "weapons of mass distraction."  So true!

So often, I can throw myself into a pit of despair because I can't measure up to the imaginary moms who "homeschool and workout and bake and run triathlons and have clean houses and have business' and read their kids 18 books a week and crochet all the things... the list could go on." (Rachel Reeves)

"Comparison is the thief of joy."  It's the pep talk I give to my girls, yet why do I fall prey to it on a daily basis, if not hourly.  Let's encourage each other, remembering that each of our families are different with various interests, an assortment of talents, and a quirky uniqueness to each family unit.  Fellow homeschool mom, Toni Weber says, "You know and love your children better than anyone else.  Tailor their schoolwork to reflect their interests and learning styles as well as your teaching style.  You and your children will be much happier marching to the beat of your own drum than copying someone else."

So I say all this to not discourage, but to hopefully, encourage you homeschool moms (and anyone else who is reading this).  Hang in there!  Focus on the calling that God has given to you and your family.  Find joy in every single little success, whether it's a completed spelling lesson or a math test without tears.  Put aside the textbooks at times and rekindle the joy found in learning.  

It's February.  The time of year when we get tired of plugging through multiplication facts, repeating the definitions of nouns and pronouns, and the weather can't decide if it's still winter or spring. Grab on to this hope and hold on determining to finish the year well.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Get outside whenever possible.  Sidewalk chalk can be the perfect notetaking opportunity.  Spelling, nature journaling, simple playtime.  I've always heard that boredom breeds trouble, which is often true.  But when given freedom outside, I believe that boredom breeds creativity.  Put away the technology and let their imaginations run loose!

Homeschool away from home every once in a while.  As much as I love our new homeschool room, we all need a change of scenery sometimes.  We have some great coffee shops, bakeries, and libraries that are perfect for making our day a little sweeter.

Lastly, as we see brokenness all around us, the world seems heavy and it causes me to cling tighter to my girls.  "There is an evil whisper suggesting that I should feel hopeless, helpless, powerless and defeated.  But I am not without hope, help, power or victory.  I know where to lift my eyes.  As I look about my home today I am thankful for the ones placed in my care and for the labor before me. What the world may look upon as an insignificant day, is in fact, one drop in a tidal wave of powerful love.  I am not just preparing meals, washing laundry, reading books, wiping noses, cleaning toilets, sweeping dust - I am effecting world change within the walls of my home." - Elsie @farmhouseschoolhouse  Amen!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Looking back...

With each new year, we look forward to the one ahead, full of the unknown, full of hope.  Yet I think in order to fully embrace the year ahead, we have to look back first.  In looking back, we can see the areas that flourished and those that need some extra attention.  I spent the last few days of 2016 answering these questions.  I was convicted, challenged, and honestly, a little depressed by the answers I gave.  

Last year was my year of survival.  On the outside, those around me may not have seen anything amiss. Yet inside, the struggles were some of the most difficult I have ever endured.  God is gracious and as this new year rolls in, I am more clearly seeing His hand as He holds me up when I can't.  I praise God for my husband who is my constant comfort when my emotions come crashing down.  I am daily thankful for my girls who are more than I deserve.  So I say all this to reiterate what I've tried to say in the past, my life is not perfect.  I have struggles just like everyone else.

So what does this next year have to hold?  Rest.

I pray for rest in my home, in my marriage, in our daily school life, and most of all, in my soul.  Over the last few weeks of January, I hope to share more of what I pray this rest will look like, but for now, this is what I pray...

I pray for slow mornings centered on God's Word, sprinkled with time in good books, music, and art.  I pray that I'm not producing little Pharisees in my girls, but sisters in Christ who desire to know God more and learn with ferocious appetites.

I pray this beautiful new room (built by my wonderful husband) will be a haven over this next year, a place of retreat to dive into our studies, and focus on the calling God has placed on our family.


I pray for more time with this man of mine.  Whether it's a quick date out or some quality moments at home, I pray that our marriage will only grow stronger.

I pray for more time at home around nourishing meals, time to cook with girls.

I pray for rest in the great outdoors, for time spent in our favorite books, laughter on our new zipline, and lots of marshmallows roasted around the fire pit.

I pray for new adventures with these people I call mine. They bring such joy.  May I too find such joy as I once had.

Last, but not least, I pray for daily rest in God's word.  I pray for the strength to get up, to find a place of quiet retreat, and for God to do a new work in my life.